Welcome back to Stock Watch, a regular feature where we’ll check in on which Clippers are playing well, not so hot, or just can’t crack the rotation.
There’s a common national narrative that the Clippers, currently a team with no All-Stars, will lose that distinction by February. Most people believe that Tobias Harris will break through for LA, especially after winning Western Conference player of the month in October/November, an award which has almost always led to an All-Star selection. However, it’s quite possible that Danilo Gallinari will have a stronger case when the time comes to select teams. Gallinari has arguably been the team’s most indispensable offensive player.
Gallinari is a remarkably efficient scorer. He shoots 47 percent from beyond the arc and 92 percent from the free-throw line (on nearly six foul shots per game) which more than makes up for his below-average mark on 2-pointers. Gallinari is thus capable of being a focal point of the offense in crunch time because he can generate offense from anywhere on the floor and he can be trusted to knock down free throws. He has the best free-throw percentage in the NBA of players who have attempted at least 10 clutch foul shots, and he showed off that ability again this week against Dallas.
Beyond his efficiency, Gallinari scored at a high volume in the past four games, averaging 25 points per contest. As the Clippers try out more small lineups, he has become adept at scoring on mismatches. He has the agility to take on most wings, and once he seals post position against smaller players, he’s almost impossible to guard in the paint. LA’s defense is still struggling, but Gallinari’s offensive prowess more than makes up for whatever he gives up on the other end. He is a complete scoring threat and is only getting more potent.
The Clippers are close to returning to full health, which spells the end of Milos Teodosic’s short stint as the lead guard in the second unit. Milos occasionally saw time as the team’s tenth man in small lineups alongside Lou Williams and another guard, but Doc Rivers has eschewed that configuration, likely because of LA’s recent struggles on the defensive end. So long as the offense is functioning in his absence, there is little reason to logically play Milos, although his flair for the game is missed. Consequently, Milos hasn’t played this week, not even in garbage time; unless the Clippers go through another slump or experience injury issues, Teodosic will have a hard time reclaiming playing time.
There is also the additional concern of whether Milos will finish out the year in Los Angeles. An interview Milos gave earlier in the season suggested that he was planning on returning to Europe, where he played the first 13 years of his professional career, sooner than later. There were even indications that Milos was considering going back during the season. Now, a report from Eurohoops states that the Turkish team Anadolu Efes has reached out to Teodosic about playing point guard for them immediately. Teodosic is still under contract with the Clippers through the end of the season, but his fluctuating playing time may lead him to pursue a buyout and return to a more stable basketball situation.
Keep an eye on:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is starting to hit the rookie wall, having hit the number of games in an average college season. After Thursday’s game against Dallas, Doc Rivers said, “Shai didn’t play great tonight. We gotta get him going again, but I never lose sight that it’s a rookie playing.... He’s never done anything like this in his life, and then when he plays, you’re playing against NBA players. It’s a taxing process for a rookie, and I understand that.”
SGA had the worst net rating of any Clipper who played in all four games other than Marcin Gortat. Oddly enough for a rookie, and especially so for a point guard, SGA’s offense was worse than his defense. The Clippers aren’t exactly putting him in a position to succeed, though, playing him more like a wing than a point in their crowded backcourt. SGA’s usage rate dropped to 14 percent this week, below his already-low normal usage of 16.9.
Shai is curiously uninvolved in offensive sets far too often. He had a lower assist rate than Patrick Beverley in the past week, which is odd considering Beverley shares the floor with Lou Williams. LA should trust Shai with the ball more often, both because he needs the experience, and because he has a low turnover rate. His major offensive weakness is hesitation from three-point distance, which cramps the floor spacing for the Clippers.
Shai hasn’t looked as good as he did earlier in the year, but he is still the second-most capable ball-handler on the roster, and the most competent in the starting lineup. He provides length on defense, which the other Clippers guards outside Ty Wallace don’t have. The coaching staff clearly trusts him, and even in a slight off week, there was never really a worry about him losing his minutes. However, his production has become less consistent, and LA has to hope that doesn’t become a trend.